As healing professionals, where by you provide services as a physician, personal support worker, psychotherapist, social worker, nurse or more Mental Wellness begins with you to promote mental wellness, and to ground your own work in a strong foundation. Many times, it is difficult to accomplish given the demands of the work we do.
Managing as a Health Care Professional
Throughout one’s career as a healthcare professional there are many influences whether that be internal or external factors that can contribute to stress in the field. These stressors can adversely affect not only one’s mental health but can also have physical health consequences. Brunero et al. (2006) defined stress as, “the emotional and physical response you experience when you perceive an imbalance between demands placed on you and your recourses at a time when coping is important”. In essence, this means that one may experience stress when faced with an event or situation that is challenging our ability to cope with the occurrence. At this moment in time, there has been a great demand for change within the lives of many due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Common Symptoms of Stress in Health Professionals
Fear and anxiety with this pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions not only in adults but to children as well (CDC, 2020). Although many people have different ways of reacting to stress some of the most common symptoms that people can present during an outbreak include the following: (1) Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones; (2) Changes in sleep or eating patterns;(3) Difficulty sleeping or concentrating;(4) Worsening of chronic health problems;(5) Worsening of mental health conditions;(6) Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs (CDC, 2020). Being able to recognize when our coping mechanisms are being challenged and knowing the supports that are being provided can significantly reduce the risk of stress and provide aid in managing.
In essence, this means that one may experience stress when faced with an event or situation that is challenging our ability to cope with the occurrence. At this moment in time, there has been a great demand for change within the lives of many due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Be mindful of these possible reactions….
Increase in anxiety and phobia
Throughout this period of time, there are many who are affected by fear and worry about their own health and the health of their loved ones. Over time these fears may develop into anxiety and phobias and can have lasting effects after there has been a decrease in pandemic and quarantine restrictions. A phobia is defined as “the persistent fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes the sufferer to want to avoid it (Dryden-Edwards, 2018)”. There are many self-help strategies for overcoming fear and anxiety about health, especially when it stops us from being able to leave our home. However, although it is encouraged to get fresh air, maintaining physical distancing during this time can aid one in balancing the concern for their health as well as the need to spend time outdoors (which is also beneficial to our physical and mental health). Some of the self-help strategies for overcoming fear of leaving the house include
- learning and practicing relaxation techniques;
- Identify those things causing you the most stress;
- Take into consideration only facts provided from credible resources;
- Practice systematic desensitization alone or with support of a family member.
Increase in Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
There are other common issues that may arise with health care professionals and one of the most common is Health care professional burnout. Prolonged deficiency in self‐care strategies can place helping professionals at risk of burnout and compassion fatigue. Self care strategies during times where there may be more seeking aid and therapy can cause clinicians and other care professionals an overwhelming amount of compassion fatigue. This compassion fatigue and burnout can be combated by different self care tips. Although there are many different aids out there, here are a few self-care tips to keep in mind according to Therapist Aid (2020):
- Self-care means taking time to do things you enjoy. Usually, self-care involves everyday activities that you ﬁnd relaxing, fun, or energizing. These activities could be as simple as reading a book, or as big as taking a vacation.
- Self-care also means taking care of yourself. This means eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, caring for personal hygiene, and anything else that maintains good health.
- Set speciﬁc goals. It’s difﬁcult to follow through with vague goals, such as “I will take more time for self-care”. Instead, try something speciﬁc, such as “I will walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner”.
- Set boundaries to protect your self-care. You don’t need a major obligation to say “no” to others— your self-care is reason enough. Remind yourself that your needs are as important as anyone else’s.
- A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care. Set an alarm reminding you to take regular breaks, even if it’s just a walk around the block, or an uninterrupted snack. Oftentimes, stepping away will energize you to work more efﬁciently when you return.
Investing in Our Mental Health
It is important during this time that health care professionals take time to prioritize their own mental health and well being, while at the same time “recognizing that it is more difficult to provide outstanding care for others when you are not adequately cared for yourself (Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, 2020).” The ability for a health care professional to acknowledge their feelings is crucial in the maintaining of overall well being. It is advised that professionals do routine check ins with themselves by asking questions such as “Am I OK?”, “If not who can I ask for help?”. One can consider seeking help by speaking to a supervisor, manager or colleague to determine what the best course of action can be and what some employers may offer as an aid, such as an Employee Assistance Program. Another factor that could influence the overall well being of health care professionals is ensuring an adequate number of hours dedicated to sleep and rest. Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation leads to lower alertness and concentration (Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, 2020), which can affect not only work performance but can cause strain in relationships with friends and family. The World Health Organization has advised that throughout this outbreak, we are to draw on skills that we have used in the past that have helped push through previous life adversities, and to use those skills to manage some challenging emotions during this time.
Walking with our people through their pain
As a helping professional, being able to understand how others are being impacted can help us provide them with options that can help them better cope with some of their stressors. There are many areas that can cause a lot of individuals stress during this pandemic, one of the most significant being finances and the fear of closing of many business and jobs for an extended period of time.
The Government of Canada has been taking immediate, significant and decisive action to help Canadians who are facing hardship, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 18, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new set of economic measures to aid in the stabilization of the economy during this challenging period. “These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses (Department of Finance Canada, 2020).” The Government of Canada has recognized that students and recent graduates are being significantly affected by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, in March 2020, the number of post-secondary working students, aged 15-29, dropped by 28% from February 2020 (Department of Finance Canada, 2020). An investment was made by the Canadian government of $9 billion towards its COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan that will help Canadian students and recent graduates overcome these challenges and support their future success (Department of Finance Canada, 2020). Completed by: Lidia
For more articles of interest read: Empowering Superhero Children
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. (2020). COVID-19 – Mental health & wellbeing for healthcare professionals. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.aomrc.org.uk/covid-19-mentalwellbeing/
Brunero, S., Cowan, D., Grochulski, A. & Garvey, A. (2006). Stress Management for Nurses. Camperdown, NSW, Australia: New South Wales Nurses’ Association.
CDC. (2020, April 30). Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Department of Finance Canada. (2020, April 01). Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html
Department of Finance Canada. (2020, May 11). Support for Students and Recent Graduates Impacted by COVID-19. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/04/support-for-students-and-recent-graduates-impacted-by-covid-19.html
Dryden-Edwards, R. (2018, November 12). Phobia Definition, List of Types, Causes & Treatment. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from https://www.medicinenet.com/phobias/article.htm
Therapist Aid. (2020). Self-Care Tips (Worksheet). Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/self-care-tips/stress/none